In December 2021, 706 bankruptcies were registered by the business courts. This is a 4.4% increase compared to November.
The number of bankruptcies registered in December 2021 is higher than in the same month in 2020 (+44.4%) but is lower than in 2019 (-31.1%).
At regional level, only the number of bankruptcies in the Flemish Region increased compared to November 2021 (+18.0%) while remaining, however, below the level of December 2019 (-10.1%).
While the number of bankruptcies increased compared to November 2021 in six economic sectors, none of these sectors saw a higher number of bankruptcies than in December 2019.
Besides, 240 bankruptcies were registered among the self-employed in December 2021 in Belgium. This is a record over the period 2000-2021, except compared to September 2019 (247). Finally, the number of 146 bankruptcies among the self-employed in December 2021 in the Flemish Region is the highest monthly value over the period 2000-2021 in this region.
As regards the number of job losses registered in December 2021, it amounts to 1,422, i.e. an increase of 26.5% compared to November 2021. It is also an increase compared to December 2020 (+2.8%) and a decrease compared to December 2019 (-24.2%).
At regional level, the number of job losses increased compared to November 2021 in the Flemish Region (+73.0%) and in the Brussels-Capital Region (+53.2%). In the latter region, this is an increase compared to December 2020 (+77.0%), but a decrease compared to December 2019 (-21.5%). Conversely, in the Flemish Region, this figure represents a decrease compared to December 2020 (-11.3%) and an increase compared to December 2019 (+6.6%).
Finally, the number of job losses registered in December 2021 increased in 7 economic sectors compared to the previous month. Among them, only the sector ‘Transportation and storage’ also registered a figure higher than in December 2020 (+439.1%) and 2019 (+8.8%). However, this number does not constitute a record for the year 2021 in this same sector.
In addition to this press release and the supplementary report, Statbel also publishes more detailed monthly figures which can be broken down by municipality, by NACEBEL 2008 class or even dated back to the year 2009. These figures are available on be.STAT via the tab ‘Figures’ of this publication.
When interpreting the figures, account should be taken of the fact that there is a certain delay between the termination of the economic activity and the notification of bankruptcy by the business court. As a result, the economic impact is only reflected in the figures after a certain period of time.
Moreover, because of the Covid-19 crisis, many business courts and registries operated at reduced capacity and limited their activities until 18 May 2020. Furthermore, a Royal Decree leading to the freezing of bankruptcy proceedings before the courts was in force until 17 June 2020, in order to protect the enterprises that were healthy before 18 March 2020 from the effects of the Covid-19 crisis.
Then, on Friday 6 November 2020, the government approved a new moratorium on bankruptcies until 31 January 2021 in order to protect enterprises that were obliged to temporarily close their doors following the ministerial decree published on 1 November 2020 amending the ministerial decree of 28 October 2020 on emergency measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).
As compensation for the end of this second moratorium, the government implemented a reform based on 3 pillars in order to make the access to the procedure for judicial reorganisation more flexible. First, the procedure was simplified, by no longer requiring enterprises to give immediately 11 documents, but only 3. The other documents can be delivered during the procedure. Second, the procedure no longer requires a publication in the Belgian Official Journal, which allows the mediator to meet with creditors in complete discretion and thus prevent them from demanding the rapid repayment of their claims before an agreement has been reached. Third, the procedure for judicial reorganisation by amicable agreement are encouraged by a tax exemption that was until then only applied to procedures for judicial reorganisation by court order. The provisions relating to the first two pillars of the reform would initially be in force up to and including 30 June 2021, but were extended until 16 July 2022 by the Royal Decree of 24 June 2021 extending Articles 2, 4 and 12 of the law of 21 March 2021 amending Book XX of the Code of Economic Law and the Income Tax Code 1992.
Between these two moratoriums, the tax administration and the NSSO spared, by a de facto moratorium, enterprises by not declaring them bankrupt due to tax and social debts. This system also remained in force after 1 February 2021 until October 2021 as far as the NSSO is concerned, while it is still in force for the tax administration.
Moreover, there is the judicial recess in July and August. Courts remain open during this period but the number of hearings is reduced. This is why our figures on bankruptcies are usually lower during this period.
Finally, many measures are also currently in force - at federal, regional and local level - to support enterprises in these times of crisis. For example the NSSO grants voluntary payment plans for a maximum duration of 24 months for the payment of all contributions and sums due for the year 2020. At the level of the National Employment Office, the entire temporary unemployment due to the coronavirus can be considered as temporary unemployment due to force majeure ‘corona’ until 31.03.2022.
All these public measures described above have had a moderating impact on the number of bankruptcies declared since March 2020.